NOMADS

Some cultures believe a man’s spirit exists in the soil of one’s ancestors. My grandmother’s ground furnished my own, with her muddled knowledge extended in part through Grandpa. But I never knew Mom’s parents, who had been born in other states. Here, though, apart from the Indians, we are all nomads. Many of us, spiritless nomads.

~*~

In this Census round I ponder multiple categories of Hispanics: Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, other Spanish, Hispanic. Also, some of the other categories I keep encountering in the Valley: Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, Asian Indian, Hawaiian, Guamanian, Samoan, Eskimo, Aleut, other (specify). Indian (Amer.) print tribe.

I have no idea what I am other than a homogenous WASP. English? German? Norwegian? Czech? Not a clue.

Kokopelli, for his part, is offended there are no distinctions between Hopi and Navajo, even if he’d checkmark both and a few more.

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

AT HEART

waging peace restores harmony uncovers common values where only conflicts and differences in appearance surface steps outside dominant viewpoints teaches children alternatives to consumerism which is self-centered at its core engenders instead the practice of doing good work reveals to us the unfavorable implications “God bless America” extends to the rest of the world O […]

EMPHASIZING THE LIVING WORD

One point Quakers have emphasized is that the Word of God is Christ rather than the Bible. It’s a point made clear in the first chapter of the gospel of John, where what is often translated as the Word – or the Greek philosophical concept of Logos – was made flesh and dwelled among us.

Fundamentalists, in contrast, insist the Word is the book, usually in a King James translation, or so it seems.

Some Christians, aware of the difference, will speak of the Living Word, meaning Christ, on one hand, and the Written Word or some variation, on the other.

The consequences of these differing understandings can be drastic.

In his book Seekers Found: Atonement in Early Quaker Experience, Douglas Gwyn cites another criticism of those who claim their religious authority springs from Scripture. Summarizing John 5:45-47, he says: “Moses, the legendary author of the Torah, will be the witness against those who have staked their salvation and spiritual authority upon Scripture.” It’s a remarkable turn in the argument. Moses, after all, had met the Holy One in the Burning Bush. There was something much more compelling than the written words to draw upon.

It was a first-hand experience rather than a retelling. For Friends, of course, the Holy One was (and is) present in Meeting for Worship and in faithful daily life.

Quakers advanced another concept they called gospel order, which was living in that faithful daily awareness. Again, citing Gwyn, the pivotal early Quaker George Fox “wrote of gospel order as the restoration of the relations between man and woman in Eden before the Fall.” For Friends, this became the basis for allowing women to establish and manage their own Meetings for Business at a time when the very idea was scandalous.

It all points to another central point of dialogue: the source of authority in our various identities and practices. These understandings are important, I sense, because they can profoundly affect our outlook on life itself and the ways we live within it.

And yes, no matter how much we might “question authority,” at some point we still need meaningful structure in direction – individually and collectively. Just where do you find it, in your own experience?

~*~

More of my own reflections on alternative Christianity are found at Religion Turned Upside Down.

WE AGE ALONG THE WAY

Being mindful of what’s right in front of us can always be a challenge. Here are 10 new items from my end.

~*~

  1. One definition of high summer for me: going to the beach for a swim at low tide and then stopping at the commercial fish distributor on the way home to pick out three lobsters followed by a stop at a farm a bit down the road for a dozen ears of corn picked just that morning. We’re soon feasting in the Smoking Garden, no problem making a mess. You know, the one-pot cooking thing for starters.
  2. Someone’s cell phone goes off during worship, insisting “Please say a command.” On the page of the open Bible next to me is an answer, “That your joy be complete” (Jesus, in the gospel of John). Who’s to argue? Not a bad command, is it?
  3. Falling walnuts hit the roof of our kitchen and sound like falling limbs or falling wooden boxes. Just where are our squirrels?
  4. The joys of a sharp black fountain pen, excising a draft to lace.
  5. There’s a restless in the core of our Seed. Usually, we try running from it. In silent worship, we stop to face it.
  6. As a writer, I’m an orphan. And yes, so is the Lone Ranger, once unmasked at the mirror.
  7. How deeply productivity is built into my psyche!
  8. Inspired by Richard Brown Lethem’s painting “Wink/Blue Table,” I like the idea of a poem or story being its own table rather than representing something else. Even as its own Table of Contents. (Where he’s a monkey, I’m a squirrel – rather than the hawk I’d envisioned.)
  9. “Closure victimizes thought” – Donald Revell on John Ashbery.
  10. Step on a nail in the garden. What a sore sole the next day! In contrast to sore soul.

~*~

They're everywhere.
They’re everywhere.

 

 

ALONG WITH THE REZ

When you drive, details pile up.

Where mat-house villages once stood, Highway 21 now runs along a large irrigation canal. Because the roadway goes nearly straight, a few subtle curves become especially treacherous.

Illegal aliens buy cars but have no driver’s license or training. No insurance, either. There’s a headlamp out, few repairs, or brakes gone bad. Talk about trouble.

In the dark, a big white furry wing sweeps in front of my windshield. An owl. An omen, nearly colliding. It’s hard to say who’s more startled.

It might have told me the Pom Pom or feather religion, Washat, remains the most practiced old religion on the reservation.

Kokopelli was a member.

Twenty cars park in a hollow point toward what appears to be a white frame meetinghouse. Inside is a congregation of dove hunters.

There isn’t a cloud in the sky, only one jet contrail as crows circle some relentless screeching. As they flap up, slaughter moves out of the shadows and coyote pursue the only antelope in these parts, the ones on the Army reservation.

On the bright side, the State Fair is a three-hundred-pound pumpkin multiplied. Its doe-goats are judged by measuring and weighing their teats in a beauty pageant stripped to essentials.

Back home, her moodiness could be impossible.

Downtown, about nine at night, a wino-cowboy walks into the office. “Where’s the city desk?” He has no place to stay. “It’s a long story.” A quarter in his pocket, stub of a cigarette, and scabies — mites that are highly contagious. “I don’t want to spread them the way some bastard did to me.” So he went to the hospital from the Gospel Mission, received medicine (how’d he know to do all this?). Didn’t get back in. (“He refused to stay for the service,” they explained.) Angry, turns to ask: “Where does a stranger go for help in this town?”

How should I know? I’m just filling in for somebody else.

“Well, if anybody whizzes you,” the stranger says, “it was a matter of amphetamines. Maybe you heard about ‘The Duke’ in Traders? The trial dismissed on procedural grounds?”

He buried $67,000, but when he returned, the money was gone. So he says, far too articulate for the typical migrant.

Later, Kokopelli tells me that guy’s trouble.

Details pile up as I stay downtown at night and taste the psychic toll of economic theories in wasted, untapped talents. The stench stirs tears. Lonely men at counters stretch cups. Icy evenings of waitresses, cowboys, GIs, prostitutes drive from many towns, a migrant worker family whose car broke down, out-of-work loggers, midnight mechanics and nurses. Add to them an assortment of skinny wannabe rich bitches or real estate and insurance brokers. Clerks trying to live on earnings from clothing stores. A few lumpy bag ladies. Walk in, and all look up from their coffee with vacant eyes. It could be Dickens.

I see another hunger, but my own faith isn’t strong enough — I’d yield to despair.

Later, I sing to Kokopelli, “All of man’s good resolutions turn sang froid in the seasons of samsara.” Noticing his quizzed expression, I translate: “Our good intentions turn cold-blooded in the web of life’s illusions.”

It’s the spider again. Coyote’s cousin. Their damned net.

“Sometimes, Bozo, I wonder about you,” Kokopelli says, exhaling blue curlicues.

“There’s no Dedicated Laborious Quest, no magic without the strength of sitting or dancing.”

I dare not be entrapped in any desire to move freely through the vertical and horizontal dimensions of wherever I simply am. So far I’ve surveyed past and present. The future must wait. First, I need to map the emotional and sensual planes of this realm. Every dance has distinctive rhythms and expressions, as Kokopelli reminds me.

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

NIGHT WATCH

1 between sunset and sunrise the ocean returns to desolate obsidian of her dark depths in the character at best, stars above strand of shoreline, depending maybe the moon with her sea-legs or repeated slapping 2 breakers arrive as a single point of reflected white opening out evenly in a line on either side a […]

TWO MISFITS IN THE FORM OF FREE SPIRITS

So we can’t really stay in that circle, secure as it might be. Honestly, your Zorba and my Elektrik Bleu would chafe too much under an imposed discipline. As it is, there’s just not enough time or freedom to satisfy our creative endeavors or passions. Much less all the community service we require of ourselves.

Our dilemma is in wanting all the benefits of Old Order or monastic communion, with few of its restrictions.  (Never mind our own relentless self-discipline.)

Now, in our own households, with our gardens and mates and children, we live decades later.

The landscape really is a maze, after all.

Oh, vicar! Said the clerk, kayaking with the physician, too.

Actually, I wonder.

When I lived in the ashram, we heard stories of Americans who’d gone to India and found it impossible to return to the U.S.A., in large part because of the secular emphasis here, rather than the God-intoxication there.

It’s equally difficult to be left hanging in transition, as I feel I am these days.

But we need to be faithful in resting in the Lord “centering” in the Lord, as we might translate much of Hebrews rather than leaning on others to do the spiritual warfare for us.

My Bible opened on 1 Corinthians 3 and 4 in Meeting First-day last, and I was struck by the way Paul emphasizes our role in being co-laborers with God, rather than trying to do it all ourselves or expecting Him to do it all for us.

(It was not the passage I was trying to locate!) When I came to the passage, “Already you have all you want!” my mind instantly began its litany of desires: book publication, family, home, recognition, close circle of friends, and so on.

Then, when I had centered again, the passage re-translated itself as “you already have everything you need,” which is all the more intriguing now that I’ve looked up other translations of the same passage (1 Corinthians 4:8) – there’s a big difference between desires and needs, and between being filled with food or enriched and being hungry or impoverished. We can do much more when we’re fed or have the riches to invest than when we’re starving and beggarly.

The hidden, spiritual turns that happen in the life of the faithful often amaze us, and yet they seem so natural.

Thee speaks of the ways the doors to Plainness have opened to thee, even when thee thought them closed, and I could speak of the ways I was drawn back to family roots I had been totally ignorant existed in the Quaker, Brethren, and Mennonite origins of the Hodgsons and Ehrstines, all the way back.

It’s no accident.

~*~

For more Seasons of the Spirit, click here.